BALINTANG CHANNEL, Luzon Strait – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) scored anew in their drive to apprehend foreign fishing vessels fishing in Philippine Sea as they nabbed two Chinese vessels in Balintang Channel Monday.
The two vessels were apprehended by DA-BFAR MCS 3007 and a PCG vessel within waters bounded by Sabtang Island, Batanes in the north, Balintang Island in the west and Calayan Island in the south at around 4:00 p.m.
Specifically, the vessels were apprehended 12 nautical miles southwest of Sabtang Island in Batanes.
The foreign vessels – Shenl Lian Cheng 719 and Shen Lian Cheng 720 – were flying both Chinese and upside down Philippine flags with the red stripe on top, and were crewed by 25 Chinese nationals.
The multi-mission vessel M/V DA-BFAR, which was on its way to Basco, Batanes, came to the scene of the apprehension.
Agriculture Undersecretary and BFAR national director Asis Perez said that flying the Philippine flag is a common tactic utilized by poachers.
The Chinese said they were just passing through on their way to their fishing grounds outside Philippine waters – showing their empty holds as proof – but were not able to provide the necessary papers for right of passage.
However, Perez said that the mere fact that they were flying the Philippine flag necessitates further investigation.
The DA official instructed the apprehending teams to escort the boats to Basco, Batanes for investigation.Basco is the nearest island where proper authorities are headquartered.
Upon arrival at Basco, Perez boarded the seized vessels and tried to explain to the crew that flying the flag of another country is in violation of international law.
He also told them that a Chinese embassy official is on its way to Basco.
Poaching carries a fine of between USD 500,000 to USD 1 million and the confiscation of the fishing vessels involved.
Crews will be deported to their country of origin.
Meanwhile, Perez immediately sent an urgent message to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informing them of the nationality of the apprehended fishermen and requested for an interpreter to be available at Basco, Batanes.
Earlier Thursday, three Vietnamese fishing junks were apprehended off Calayan Island, Cagayan for poaching.
The three vessels, manned by 18 Vietnamese nationals, yielded about four tons of fish, mostly tuna.
They were presently moored in Port Irene, Sta. Ana, Cagayan under guard by BFAR personnel. Cielito Reganit/PNA/northboundasia.com